Sunday Brunch: Cinnamon Rolls

[Photo: Robin Bellinger]

Having regretted offending a few readers with a shortcut recipe for sweet breakfast buns, I finally got around to baking proper yeasted cinnamon rolls. Although they took more time (most of it for rising and therefore requiring nothing of me), they were far easier to make than the quick cinnamon bun recipe with its sticky, exasperating dough. Certain brunch guests will be surprised to learn that cinnamon rolls can be made from scratch in a home kitchen—"Like, from a can?" a friend of mine once asked when informed that I had made the roll she was being handed—but there's actually no trick to it.

These cinnamon rolls were a bit restrained for my tastes. Where I had anticipated (with some eagerness, I'm sorry to say) an almost sickeningly sugary and oozingly buttery treat along the lines of a Cinnabon, this recipe stresses the soft, sweet bread. If you don't want to spend your Sunday afternoon passed out on the sofa, though, a little restraint is a good thing. I look forward to making these rolls again.

Adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.

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Sunday Brunch: Cinnamon Rolls

About This Recipe

Yield:12 rolls

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, warm, plus 3 tablespoons buttermilk or milk
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • Salt
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 3 tablespoons cream cheese, softened

Procedures

  1. 1

    Whisk the 3/4 cup warm buttermilk, 6 tablespoons of the melted butter, and eggs together.

  2. 2

    In a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix 4 cups of the flour, the sugar, yeast, and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and mix until the dough comes together, about 1 minute. (I'm sure you can also make these by hand, stirring the dough together in a bowl and then kneading by hand for 10 minutes instead of by machine, but I have not tried it myself.)

  3. 3

    Increase the speed to medium-low and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If, after 5 minutes, more flour is needed, add the remaining 1/4 cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough clears the side of the bowl but sticks to the bottom.

  4. 4

    Turn the dough out onto a clean counter and knead by hand to form a smooth, round ball, about 1 minute. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

  5. 5

    Mix the brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and a pinch of salt together in a small bowl. Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured counter and press it into a 12 by 16 inch rectangle. Brush the dough with 1 tablespoon butter and sprinkle the brown sugar mixture over, leaving a 3/4 inch border along the top edge. Press on the filling to make it adhere to the dough as best you can.

  6. 6

    Roll the dough into a tight cylinder and pinch the seam closed. Gently stretch the cylinder until it is 18 inches long and has an even diameter. Slice into 12 evenly sized rolls—use a serrated knife or bench scraper. Arrange the rolls cut-side down in a 9 by 13 inch metal baking dish that has been greased with the remaining tablespoon of melted butter. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until the rolls have nearly doubled in size and are pressed against one another, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

    (After wrapping the dish, you may refrigerate it for up to 16 hours. Before baking in step 7, let the rolls sit at room temperature until they have nearly doubled in size and are pressed against one another, 1 to 1 1/2 hours; in my chilly house, it took 2 hours.)

  7. 7

    Preheat the oven to 350°. Bake the until the rolls are golden and puffed, 25 to 30 minutes. (My rolls were finished after 20 minutes, perhaps because I was using a dark metal baking dish; check early.) Flip the rolls out onto a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes.

  8. 8

    Whisk the cream cheese and remaining 3 tablespoons buttermilk (or milk) together until thick and smooth. Sift the confectioners' sugar over the mixture and whisk until smooth, about 30 seconds. Flip the rolls upright and drizzle the glaze over them.

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